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How to challenge DSS discrimination

What is DSS discrimination?

DSS discrimination is when a letting agent refuses to rent to people who get universal credit, housing benefit or disability benefits.

For example, if they:

  • refuse to let you view somewhere you can afford

  • will not consider you for a tenancy because you get benefits

  • advertise properties as 'no DSS', 'no DWP benefits' or 'working professionals only'

If you cannot find an affordable private tenancy

Read this advice: how to find landlords who accept benefits

What checks can an agent do?

Most agents will check that you can:

  • pay the advertised rent

  • meet upfront costs such as a deposit

Agents should not assume that you cannot afford the rent just because you get benefits.

Always answer questions about your income honestly.

Income and affordability checks

Make sure you know your local housing allowance (LHA) rate.

Your LHA rate is used to work out how much help you get with rent.

You may get less than this rate if you're working or have other income.

Explain how you can cover any rent not covered by LHA. For example, from wages, other benefits or child maintenance.

If you already pay a similar or higher rent, show bank statements and references.

The agent must not use external referencing companies that exclude people on benefits or ignore income from benefits.

Credit checks

Agents can only do a 'soft search' credit check with your permission.

The check only shows information about you that is already public. For example, if a court has said you owe someone money.

Ask if a credit check could be waived if you can afford the rent but have a poor credit rating.


Many agents ask for guarantors and it helps if you have one.

Agents will usually do income and credit checks on guarantors too.

It's not a legal requirement. If you can afford the rent, it could be unnecessary or bad practice to ask for one.

Rent in advance

Offer 2 months' rent in advance if you can. This should be enough to cover the time that you wait for a benefit to be processed or changed.

Some landlords worry that tenants will be late with rent because benefits are paid in arrears. Explain that your benefit is paid monthly so you can still pay your rent on time each month.

What if a landlord does not accept benefits?

Letting agents cannot say it's the landlord's choice to refuse tenants on benefits.

It's against equality law for them to take instructions to discriminate from a landlord.

If you're dealing directly with the landlord, you cannot always challenge DSS discrimination. This is because private landlords are not regulated in the same way as agents.

The landlord's mortgage or insurance company

The agent should ask the landlord for evidence if a landlord says their mortgage lender or insurance company will not allow them to rent to people who get benefits.

Most mortgage lenders and many insurance companies have dropped these restrictions because they indirectly discriminate.

When to complain

A complaint letter will not always work but it gives the agent a chance to put things right.

We have 2 letter templates you can use:

  1. Request a viewing if you're refused one

  2. Formal complaint about DSS discrimination

It's likely to be DSS discrimination if you can afford the property but the agent assumes you are not a suitable tenant just because you get benefits.

Keep a record of your property search

Keep a record of agents' responses when you ask to view or rent a property.

Save emails or messages. If you speak to an agent in person or on the phone, note down their name and what was said as soon as you can.

This can help later if you need evidence of what you were told.

'No DSS' policies are unlawful discrimination

The courts have ruled that 'no DSS' policies are unlawful because they indirectly discriminate against women and disabled people.

Join our campaign to end income discrimination

Last updated: 17 July 2024

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